Round 3: Cowboys v Sharks preview
One and one is the record of both the Cowboys and Sharks as they head into an important Round 3 clash on Saturday afternoon at 1300SMILES Stadium.
North Queensland were left counting their woes last weekend after a crushing 29-10 defeat against the Brisbane Broncos. The Cowboys came into last weekend's game confident of a good performance after a Round 1 victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons. However, last week was far from the cakewalk they had in the opening game and the tough contest against the Broncos took its toll on them, unable to gain any momentum and at 24-0 down in the second half, the game was already gone for the Cowboys despite a late mini-resurgence.
Ultimately, injuries troubled the Cowboys and have had a big impact on the lead-up to this game, with Paul Green having to cope with the loss of superstar Jason Taumalolo for up to 10 weeks with an MCL injury. The Townsville club have also dropped Tom Opacic after an indifferent performance against his old club last week. Te-Maire Martin moves from five-eighth to full back, and they've added youngster Jake Clifford to the halves.
Cronulla put a disappointing Round 1 performance behind them last Saturday when they sent their fans home happy with a 20-6 victory against the Gold Coast at Shark Park. They looked average in their opening round match against the Knights when they fell to a 14-8 defeat, and last weekend the Sharks were again not at their peak, but were made to look good at times by the hapless Titans.
The men from the Shire will need to put in a full 80-minute performance up against the Cowboys given the fact that they have failed to score points in two of the four halves of football they have played this season.
In team news, Sharks go into the game with the same squad as named on Tuesday by rookie coach John Morris.
Over the past 20 years, the two sides have played 42 times with the Sharks winning 25 of those games compared to the Cowboys' 17.
Who to watch: One of the NRL's shining youngsters, Coen Hess has to play a big role against the Sharks with the loss of Jason Taumalolo. Hess was a strong performer in 2017 before having a less than stellar 2018. He'll need to stand-up both in defence and attack to help make up for Taumalolo's absence.
After announcing his retirement mid-week, Paul Gallen will be looking to inspire his team to victory as he has done for so long. In two matches this season, 'Gal' has averaged 90 running metres per game and his efforts will be key yet again if the Sharks want to take victory in Townsville.
My tip: The Sharks - despite winning last week - weren't that impressive against the Titans whilst the Cowboys weren't much better in their loss against the Broncos. The loss of Taumalolo is a big one for the home side and will hurt them, but ultimately being back in Townsville will be a boost for North Queensland.
If the Cowboys' forward pack can set a platform to go forward and then they should be much better than their Cronulla counterparts. Cowboys by 8.